Popular Culture, Educational Discourse, and Mathematics

By Peter M. Appelbaum

Subjects: Mathematics
Series: SUNY series, Education and Culture: Critical Factors in the Formation of Character and Community in American Life
Paperback : 9780791422700, 309 pages, April 1995
Hardcover : 9780791422694, 309 pages, April 1995

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents


0. Introduction


Why is this Chapter 0?

The Prospectus

Mass Culture and Critical Pedagogy



Reading Popular Culture

1. The Best Teacher in America

Everything Depends on the Teacher

The Teacher as Myth

Teacher as Signifier

Teacher as Hero

Escalante: The Best Teacher in America

Unraveling the Myth

Mathematics Teacher

Why Does Everything Depend on the Teacher?

2. Ezekiel Saw the Wheel: Problem Solving on and Off TV

The Opposition of Method and Content

Precedent: Professional Knowledge Overrides Teacher Personality

Teachers as Epistemological Metaphors

Philosophies of Mathematics Hide the Social

Pedagogy and Popular Culture

Game Shows Hit the Jackpot

Games and Schools

Probability and Profit

Problems and Problem Solving

Imitators and Echoes

Numbers and Money

The Transformation of Problem Solving

3. Gender and the Construction of Social Problems

Gender as a Social Problem

Gender and Sex

A Political Context

Liberal Feminist Research: A Professional Context

Gender as News


-1. Consumer Culture: Power and the Identity Politics of Mathematics Education

From Critical Literacy to Popular Culture

Mathematics as a Cultural Resource


Homage to Whitty and Young







This groundbreaking book analyzes contemporary education discourse in the light of curriculum politics and popular culture, using sources ranging from academic scholarship to popular magazines, music video, film and television game shows. Mathematics is used as an "extreme case," since it is a discipline so easily accepted as separable from politics, ethics or the social construction of knowledge. Appelbaum's juxtaposition of popular culture, public debate and professional practice enables an examination of the production and mediation of "common sense" distinctions between school mathematics and the world outside of schools. Terrain ordinarily displaced or excluded by traditional education literature becomes the pendulum for a new conversation which merges research and practice while discarding pre-conceived categories of understanding

The book also serves as an entertaining introduction to emerging theories in cultural studies, progressively illustrating the uses of discourse analysis for comprehending ideology, the implications of power/knowledge links, professional practice as a technology of power, and curriculum as at once commodities and cultural resources. In this way, Appelbaum effectively reveals a direction for teachers, students and researchers to cooperatively form a community attentive to the politics of curriculum and popular culture.

Peter M. Appelbaum is Assistant Professor of Curriculum and Instruction at the William Paterson College of New Jersey.


"The book deals with important and far-reaching issues in a way that is original, stimulating, and very accessible; it succeeds in linking widely divergent fields of study—math education and cultural studies—in a way that provokes fresh questions and rethinking of received ideas. A considerable strength of this book is that it's a lively, engaging work, at once playful and serious. While it is theoretically sophisticated, it is not freighted with jargon and pretentious rhetoric. " — Paul Farber, Western Michigan University

"There is a wonderful combination of critical theory and sources drawn from popular culture. The approach is lively, while at the same time insightful. The book is an academic page-turner. Provocative and groundbreaking, this book opens up a significant line of inquiry for mathematics education—an important contribution to the field. " — Eugene F. Provenzo Jr. , University of Miami